The Justin Verlander situation

Your loyal scribe was riding home from a haircut and listening to the good folks on local talk radio discuss the JV “Situation”. The situation concerning Justin Verlander is that he easily rolled past a contract goal in his last start (130 innings), which automatically meant that should he opt for it, he can make another $25 MM in 2023 as the Astros ace.

The giant elephant in the room is that if Verlander continues pitching the rest of the season as he has done to date, he will opt out of 2023 with Houston and go reel in a multi-year contract for a lot more bucks. Throwing a number out, there might be something in the area of 3 years / $120 MM.

On the radio, one of the hosts had drawn a line in the sand and said if Verlander opts out, the Astros should do what they did with Gerrit Cole, George Springer, and Carlos Correa. Let him walk and invest elsewhere. They have sustained their success by not investing in too much long term and not getting caught upside down with those types of contracts.

Let’s take a look at both sides of this argument….

Why the Astros should pursue signing Justin Verlander after the season….

  • He’s one of the best pitchers of his generation and has been one of the best pitchers in either league since his coming to Houston. Since the waiver trade deadline in 2017, he is 58-18 with a 2.30 ERA and a 0.839 WHIP.  His 2022 may be the best of the full seasons he has produced to date.
  • He is a team leader, as best exemplified by his popping out of the clubhouse during the 2017 World Series and exhorting his teammates to show how great they really were.
  • He is a mentor. Look at how his sit-down with Jake Odorizzi turned him around earlier this season.
  • He wants to be here. He signed his current contract with the Astros almost immediately upon becoming a free agent. He could easily have wandered around looking for a few MM’s more, but he did not.
  • If there is a pitcher, who is going to be the baseball equivalent of Tom Brady and sustain his high-end stuff into his 40s, this is the guy. He is the closest thing there is to another Nolan Ryan.
  • They were able to absorb his $66 MM in salary in 2020 and 2021 when he only pitched 6 innings and made it to the ALCS and the World Series.

Why the Astros should let Justin wander elsewhere after the season…..

  • By the time the 2023 season begins, he will be 40 years old. He is not Phil Niekro living off a knuckler or like Zach Greinke living off slow and slower junk balls. He is a pitcher who lives off that upper 90’s fastball paired with a devastating curve. If that fastball starts to wane a bit in his 40s, will he be a lot more hittable?
  • He was not such a team leader/ mentor that he would show up for his teammates when he was out for two seasons.
  • The Astros have become the most consistently fine baseball team since 2015 by signing reasonable lengths and dollars for their contracts and by not making sentimental signings.
  • Perhaps if he wanted to be here so badly, he would have signed the newest contract before the Astros made a Qualifying Offer to him. Once the QO was made, another one could not be made if he opts out of his contract and goes a free agent for 2023. No QO means a draft pick is not tied to signing him for next season and makes him a more attractive pickup.
  • He’s already missed two seasons with the Astros due to injury. Do we want to risk that again as he turns 40?

There are undoubtedly more reasons for or against keeping him. I would vote to keep him for another three seasons under the heading “It’s Not My Money”. What do you think?

87 comments on “The Justin Verlander situation

  1. Hello Chip! Seems like a non issue to me. I really think he’ll sit down with Crane over dinner and a good bottle of wine and get a deal done, assuming good health. I don’t think this one is a GM decision.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hope – and expect that – The F.O. Will make a good, well-thought out, run at signing JV for a two-year extension. I expect they will be unsuccessful. I expect that the franchise will survive, either way. Pass the Mogen David.

      Like

    • Scherzer I believe got 3 yrs $130 MM and I discounted JV due to the age difference. I am not a baseball GM but I did sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tonight
    – My brother is harking back to an old boxer and has nicknamed our new hitting star Boom Boom Mancini
    – Framber was good until he ran out of gas
    – Seth Martinez came in and put out the fire
    – Dusty missed the game with Covid/ Tucker missed more meals and missed the game
    – Glad the team pinned their ears back and took advantage of a young guy making his first mlb start

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Verlander will only sign with a contender. Depending on how much he will accept to sign you could have a large group of teams in the bidding. Would a team like San Diego have the budget to get him? Anyhow, since acquiring Soto the Padres have dropped 1.5 games further behind the Dodgers.

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  4. The Angels beat the Mariners, increasing the Astros AL West lead to 12.5 games.
    The Cards beat the Yankees, reducing NY’s lead over Houston to 1/2 game.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Astros have their ace back after missing him for two years. If he leaves, the Astros won’t have an ace, because he is a better pitcher than anyone else in their organization.
    It is up to Crane and Click to find out what he wants from Houston to stay and then work out the details.
    They could not keep Cole because he wanted ten years and that is not what the Astros do. I don’t believe JV wants that kind of a deal.
    Verlander has started 20 games this year so far and the Astros are 16-4 in those starts.
    But, the main reason you want to keep Verlander is so that he can show every player on the Astros how to keep themselves great as they mature, especially young pitchers.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. With 50+ games to go, it is looking more and more like Brantley and Castro are done with this year and their contracts. Last August and September, Brantley hit .263 and .277. So if he is done, it would appear that that loss would not be a big impact. He is/was a great hitter for years.

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  7. One doesn’t prove the other, but Nolan pitched in Houston at age 40 and pitched 211 innings with 270 Ks. and then 41 – 220 innings and 228 Ks. Then went to Arlington and for two more years pitched over 200 innings. Then at 44 he started a heavy decline.

    Anything over 2 years appears unwise to me. Give him the same contract if he will accept it with the second year vesting and guaranteed at 130 innings.

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  8. My take on JV is different. When I watch him I don’t think we are watching the best teammate on the planet, I feel like if he sat down with Odorizzi he did it because it wasn’t inconvenient and didn’t interfere with his routine. I could completely have the guy misjudged though because how much do we really know?

    What I can figure is he is so damn good because he cares about his legacy – and that is why we should resign him, even at 3/120. He is a workhorse that is once in a generation. Even Clemens with all his “help” had diminished velocity at 40. I think JV probably takes science and nutrition and extreme workouts to a new level.

    We would still be very good without him. No doubt. But he is that hole you can’t plug in a short series. If he and McCullers were pitching against the Braves in that WS its very possible we have a different outcome.

    Mancini is already paying dividends, and we didn’t give up anything for him that we will remember. I think we are going to regret the Vasquez move. Even if Valdez doesn’t become an all star, he has shown that he will hit some at every level, and probably has a long major league career ahead of him, and we traded him for a catcher that already sounds like he is looking forward to FA and will play once every 3 days for 2 months.

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    • Once Yordan was as hot for us as Jose Ramirez is for Cleveland right now. Right now, however, he’s as ‘cold as ice’, and putting him and Gurriel back to back is fan-torture.

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  9. No idea why they are starting so early though it is noon in Cleveland but hopefully it allows them to get back to Houston at a reasonable hour.
    I hope they are awake for this one – they slept through last night’s loss.

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  10. Tucker out of the lineup – Altuve out – Gurriel out
    Pena SS
    Diaz 2B
    Alvarez DH
    Bergman 3B
    Mancini – 1B
    McCormick – RF
    Dubon – LF
    Meyers – CF
    Maldonado – C

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  11. Pedro Leon was hit in the face by a fastball last night. Ball appeared to glance off his shoulder and then rocketed off his left cheek, Hoping he is ok.

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  12. So far in August the Astros are 3 -3. Without Brantley, the LF position is giving us a BA of 1.81 [that includes 3 starts by Alvarez, 2 by Diaz, and 1 by Chaz] with one – yes you read that correctly – RBI.

    Do we miss Uncle Mike yet?

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    • The 7th inning is a perfect example of how this offense gives away games. Alvarez sees 3 pitches; Bregman 2, and Mancini 1. We only made their starter, who has been making our guys look like t-ballers all day, throw 6 pitches in his 7th frame.

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      • Mr. Bill – I need a retraction from you. I have been inundated by hundreds of t-ballers who say they hit a lot better than this club has today.

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      • Point well-taken, Dan. My apologies to T-ballers everywhere. One word of caution: whatever you do, do not try to emulate any of the approaches you have seen the Astros take today!

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  13. A week into life with this year’s trade deadline additions here is my preliminary analysis. We upgraded a bit offensively at both the catcher and 1b positions. We did not upgrade the pitching staff in general or the bullpen in particular.

    Mancini will have a occasional big home run game (which Yuli just doesn’t do anymore); but day by day, Mancini will strike out a ton and in most cases will actually provide less offensive help than Yuli would. Please prove me wrong, Trey!

    Vazquez is a better backstop and a better hitter than poor overmatched rookie Korey Lee, but he’s shown nothing to indicate he’s going to generate runs. Of course, part of that could be due to the fact that the rest of our hitters – especially in the spots preceding him in the order – have gone comatose.

    Our long- awaited lefty reliever so far reminds me of every other lefty reliever we’ve had in the past decade or so – uninspiring at best and a disaster waiting to happen at worst. He just does not look confident or comfortable.

    The new guys are NOT, however, responsible for us havin a record below .500 for August. The blame for that falls on the slumps of Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, and the fact that CF is a total ‘black hole’ position for us.

    Summary: let’s hope the starting pitching holds and that LMJ comes back strong. Our offense cannot be counted on to win us anything.

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    • Mr. Bill, I did not see your post prior to slowly typing my own. But let me add a couple of things. I don’t know how you can assign any blame to Yordan
      Alvarez for anything. Actually he should be given the MLB equivalent of a Bronze Star for carrying the offense throughout the season. And he might be the best hitter in baseball. Vasquez has had little opportunity to perform. Chas has had zero opportunity to take ownership of centerfield. I love Yuli, but he is the main reason Mancini is on the Astro roster. And there is absolutely no indication that Yuli is prepared to provide the offense Mancini has YTD. We have several guys you can blame, if you must, for not performing offensively as they have historically. Or blame Dusty or Click.

      But heck, there are only two teams in MLB with a better record. We’re just a half game behind the Yankees. I’d much rather be us than them right now. In spite of our struggles, last time I checked we were 5th in OPS. Third in homers. Third in fewest strike outs. And we’re still 28th in BABip. I see guys bunting. I see double steals. I see guys going opposite field. Like I said a couple of weeks ago, I’ve failed miserably in my role as Chief Cynic. I don’t know if we’ll win a World Series, but we’re in pretty good shape right now overall, even having lost Brantley. I just hope for continued good health.

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  14. We’ll figure this roster out. Yordan will hit again. Montas got beat up in his first Yankee start. He might not be healthy. Their pen gave up 6 runs. They are 6-10 since the break. Astros are 11-7. Our pitching remains solid and deep. I don’t think the Yankees can say that.

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    • Yes, the Yanks have given us a ‘pass’ by slumping worse than we are. My son went to St. Louis this weekend to see the Yanks/Cards series and was shocked at how easily the Redbirds manhandled the Bronx Bombers.

      Regarding Yordan, over his last 7 games he is hitting .174 with an OBP of .286. If he’s hurting, you would think the Undisputed Rest-Master of all-time, Dusty Baker, would sit him down for a few days like he does everyone else.

      Oh, and I haven’t heard any ‘R.O.Y’ hype about Mr. Pena lately, either. Over the past seven games he is hitting .172 with a .172 OBP. Surely he – and Tuck – will bounce back as well … hopefully starting with the Texas series

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  15. As to the topic at hand it would be nice to go ahead and lock him up provided it doesn’t cost us an arm and a leg. Considering the two years that he didn’t pitch I would hope JV would take that into consideration as well as the fact that we should always be in contention to win another WS. Give him 3 years at $100MM with a mutual option for a fourth year but as it has been said, it’s not my money.
    No comment as to our sorry play the last two games. Oh, does that comment count?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I don’t mind being the one who points it out; it’s an off day, and I can take the heat. So here goes. If the F.O. – or the fan base – was counting on getting McCullers back in mid-season form – or even on a level equal to what we were getting from Odo before the trade – they [and we] could be sadly disappointed. Sorry -but he’s not JV [who is?].

    In LMJ’s five rehab starts so far [ERA 6.75, WHIP 1.73, BAA .291] he has tended to look pretty good for an inning or so, then has quickly regressed, occasionally falling headlong into terrible. I know he is rehabbing – but this is LMJ -the bulldog-mindset of bulldog-mindets. His velo is significantly down. He gives up way too many dingers. He walks too many -and doesn’t handle the pressure of base runners well. So the guys he walks wind up scoring. His spin rate is still good. He can still strike some guys out. But at least thus far he’s given us zero reason to expect him to contribute at the level our ‘clear-to-partly-cloudy offense needs him to any time soon. He is not going to want to go through another rehab cycle. Without an offense that averages 5 or more runs a game to back him up, he doesn’t need to be pitching for this team quite yet. That will put even more strain on the rest of our starters – and that will snowball to the bullpen. Can we have a mulligan on the Odo-Will Smith trade?

    Hit me.

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  17. Corey Julks:
    Born in Friendswood
    Clear Brook HS in Friendswood
    University of Houston
    Drafted by Houston
    Made it to Corpus Christi in 2019
    Pandemic in 2020
    Finished 2021 in CC
    Has played all of 2022 in Sugarland
    This guy deserves the next natural step. He deserves a shot to play in the bigs for Houston in front of his family and friends.

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      • I wasn’t thinking long term or what position. I just would like for him to get what he has earned and that’s a chance to spend some time in Houston with the Astros. After that, let whatever happens, happen.

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  18. LMJ threw 86 pitches in his Sugarland rehab start last night.
    When asked if he wants another rehab start he replied he is ready to pitch for the Astros. He made his wishes emphatically clear.

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    • I truly wish Lance’s numbers supported his wishes – or even were trending in that direction. ERA 6.75, WHIP 1.73, BAA .291 – and getting worse each time out. A healthy, fit, and stretched out Lance could help us out; but our offense has suddenly decided to give our pitchers zero margin for error, and our bullpen is already stretched to the max.

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  19. NEXT UP – THE RANGERS [Record vs. Texas so far 7 wins, 3 losses]

    Going into the series with the Rangers it should be noted that, despite their dismal record, the Rangers actually average scoring slightly more runs per game than we do. They average 4.53 runs per game, while our average is now down to 4.42. The difference between our record and theirs all comes down to pitching and defense. They’ve averaged giving up 4.66 runs per game (can our suddenly strikeout/weak pop-out, roll-over grounder prone warriors manage anything close to that?); our pitchers have averaged holding opponents to 3.25 runs per game. Can we keep their notorious Astro-killing hitters like Seager, A. Garcia, and N. Lowe from raising that average in this series?

    Let’s hope the old saying holds true – good pitching beats good hitting every time. [no Yogi-isms this time, please]. And let’s hope the ‘good pitching’ is all on our side.

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  20. As for LMJ, it appears we might have screwed up there letting Odorizzi go for “next to nothing”. I had always thought that we’d work him in slowly at 3 innings at a time until he could go the distance but then again. Got to give Julks and Hunter Brown a shot at the big leagues considering everything else going on. Just not to crazy about the state of things with the club at this time. Hopefully it’ll be OK.

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  21. I think if I had a son/grandson/great grandson, etc that was going to play pro ball, I would insist he sign with the Texas Rangers. We all know about the great contracts for Gallo, Hamilton, etc. But look at Odor. He is being paid $15 Million to “Go Away” by the Rangers for 2022-2023.

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    • AC, I get your point – but man, there are some things a person just shouldn’t do no matter how much money is on the table! Joining the Rangers’ organization is high up on that list.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I’d like to see Corey Julks get a shot at some point, but I’d rather see Chas McCormick get a shot first.

    I’m still scratching my head a bit over the value of we got for Odorizzi because he likely would have continued to provide innings to a group of starters that we want to keep fresh for October. But I’m guessing he was again not in the Astro plan for post season play. And I still wonder if he really ever fit in on this club. It’s also pretty clear that he was not a part of next years plan. I was wrong in thinking we could have gotten a more valuable left handed arm for him though.

    I’m happy to see Lance throwing 86 pitches with no apparent discomfort. And I’m not really worried about the results to date. If his velocity is not back to where it should be, then I’m dubious. But he could be back home on the mound this weekend. We’ll find out!

    And if Lance is not ready to help, then we’ve got other talent. Maybe Brown gets the nod. That would be fun to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I really don’t agree on Odorizzi, I see it as addition by subtraction. He has been by far the least dependable starter we have. I’m not even really sure he had a playoff role on this team.

    I get the concerns about LMJ. They concern me too. Those are not good numbers. DeGrom wasn’t great at Syracuse, giving up 5 runs in 8 innings. Scherzer gave up the same 5 runs in 8 innings at Binghamton. I trust LMJ – he is not a guy that wants to pitch injured. If he isn’t ready to go, I think he would tell the team.

    We are at a 5 man rotation right now. We could easily enter the playoffs with that, with Javier or Garcia going to the pen for long relief, even without LMJ. We have the cushion to see if LMJ can get playoff ready. If we go back to a 6 man rotation, he will get 5-6 starts. If he isn’t, he either goes to the pen or is left off the roster and told get ready for next year. If he is, its only value added. If we were running a 2 game lead with 7 weeks to go I would worry. If we lose 2 games that we could have won too see what he has, so be it.

    If he is 0-5 with a 6 ERA and we lose homefield by 2 games, I will be wrong.

    Regardless what we think whatever Dusty is going to do is preordained. I’m always hesitant to trust his lineup making and in game decision making, what I never disregard is his ability to handle people.

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    • Click could have written the same article while Siri was here and added “That is why he is on our No Trade List.” And that would have been full of as much bunk as this article.

      I do wish him well.

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    • Though sometimes his hotdogging got on my nerves, I have nothing against Siri – I wish he was in the other league or with a non-contender so I could wish him real well. He is like Jake Marisnick (but a worse hitter). He brings a lot to the game but his hitting will always limit him. If they ever got him to swing at strikes only he might actually be dangerous, but usually this is a talent that is natural not developed.

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  24. Regarding LMJ, I am certain he has more in the tank than he was showing in his rehabs.
    Regarding Julks, I was not necessarily talking about bringing him up this season. I was talking about sometime.
    I love what Verlander has done this season. I would like to see him stay with the Astros longer.
    Having a normal draft is going to help the Astros build back their farm system.
    https://www.yardbarker.com/mlb/articles/seven_astros_draftees_receive_affiliated_assignments/s1_17069_37755938

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    • Amazing that he could bring them so little return and amazing he would be doing something during the season that could result in an injury. I know it is not a motorcycle, but I have had a couple people I know at work die in bicycle accidents

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  25. Okay, I get it. The stats of the rehab starts don’t matter. LMJ was probably just playin’ around in those starts -just Batman bein’ ‘Batman’. The decreased velo is not a concern – he’s cool enough to WILL his way to mid-season form. Whew! Problem solved!

    I understand. LMJ will be coming back to Houston this weekend, and will almost certainly be given the call to start one of the games against the A’s [no, there’s been no formal announcement, but does there really need to be one? The handwriting is on the wall].

    Somebody will, of course, have to be sent down or DFA-ed to make room for him. Who will it be?

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  26. WE LIVE IN PEREZ-ILOUS TIMES!

    No player currently on our roster has ever hit a home run against tonight’s starter Martin Perez, who is 9-2 this year with a 2.27 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. Against us on April 28 the Rangers’ ace lefty went 7 innings, allowing just one run on two hits, but getting a no decision. On May 20 he came back and threw a complete game shutout against us. We haven’t faced him since.

    Historically the only Astros who have ever shown well against him are Martin Mardonado [9-18, 4 RBIs] and Kyle Tucker [3-6, no RBIs]. While with the Orioles, Trey Mancini hit .375 against him [6 for 16]. Yuli Gurriel [7 for 21, 2 RBI] and Chaz McCormick are both hitting .333 [3 for 9, no RBI] when facing him.

    Beyond that, he’s got our number. Altuve has been ‘meh’. Bregman, Pena and Alvarez have so far both been unable to figure Perez out at all.

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  27. You never know in this game. Down 4-0 against Perez with very few pitches thrown, it looked bad. It looked over. Things are looking much better here in the 6th. Who would have thought, Perez knocked out?

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  28. Bad day has turned around – the bats are back alive and the Astros are up 7-5.
    Diaz’s grand slam to tie was huge
    Loved Tucker lining one off the left field wall

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  29. Last night’s big come-from-behind bail out of Jose Urquidy was encouraging. Since Seattle knocked off the Yankees in 13, we are a game closer to the best record in the AL. Ah, but since Dave has taken a leave of absence from the position of cynic-in-chief on this blog, I feel it is my duty to point out a few things on the negative side of last night’s win.
    1. We got out-hit and out-homered by the visiting Rangers. They got 10 hits; we only managed 7. They got two bombs; we just got one. It was only thanks to Diaz’ slam against a guy who usually eats our guys alive that we avoided another loss. We won – but that’s not a good formula for winning for a team whose strength is pitching.
    2. Our mega-star, Yordan Alvarez, still just does not look healthy. He gave us yet another 0-fer from the critical #3 position in the order. He is now hitting .174 for August, with no HR, one double, and one RBI.
    3. Jeremy Pena was also 0-4 again, making his August BA .172 – also with no HR, one double, and no RBI. Is he ailing – or just going through a rookie slump?
    4. Jake Meyers … oh, forget it. What more can be said?
    5. Dang, when Urquidy struggles, it gets ugly quick!
    6. Our pitchers plunked 3 of their guys last night. Just remember that if things get ugly going forward.

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    • On the other hand:
      -Texas is 15-7 in Martin Perez’s starts this year and the Astros beat him. He is a 2022 All-Star and hadn’t lost a game since April.
      – The Astros came from behind twice and won.
      – Perez tried the stutter-step out of the stretch and got called for a balk and never tried it again.
      – The Astros won after a day off and that is amazing in and of itself. Actually getting a day off was amazing.
      – Perez’s only three walks of the night came before Diaz’s grand slam in the fourth inning.
      – Diaz, a dead fastball hitter, homered off of Perez’s best pitch, the changeup.
      – I think winning games you probably aren’t supposed to win is as good a sign as any that you are a good team. A Grand Slam by a backup infielder playing LF.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Mr. Happy here! In fact we’re tied with the Yankees at 71 -40. Indeed, tough outing from Jose. But I’m really pleased to have a healthy fifth starter with a WHIP of 1.165. I’m not sure if any other team has the same luxury. And great job by the pen starting with a blank from our new lefty. And timely hitting! Now if we can get Chas out there when he should be playing, that might help too. And maybe some rest for the rookie while Diaz remains hot. We’ve got a pretty good guy going tonight. I’m hopeful!

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    • Yep, Dave. I’m trying really hard for the sake of ‘devil’s advocate’ and keeping the blog fired up, but I just can’t pretend to be too pessimistic about a game when Justin Verlander is our starter. Help me out, someone – I’m getting derelict in my duties!

      Liked by 1 person

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